Hiring in Japan

There are many aggressive Japanese sales executives with a “roll-up-your sleeves” attitude and high energy. As a general rule of thumb, the suitable candidates have five more years of experience than their counterparts overseas, due to the need for managers to work their way up through the Japanese seniority system before being delegated authority and gaining hands-on experience.

How strong does the person’s English need to be? If you are looking for a truly bilingual person, this could eliminate all of the available candidates. In general, the spoken English capability of Japanese people is poor, while written skills are fair to good. And that is for people in jobs that interact with Western headquarters. Bottom line, it is more important for the individual to be a good manager that can interact with customers and employees, and s/he only needs to be bicultural enough to adequately understand how to manage his or her “gaijin” (foreign) bosses.

Many companies believe that the Japanese system can make it difficult for companies to fire personnel. However, it is generally possible to terminate employees without cause during the initial three months probationary period, despite the official view of the Labor Standards office that employees have a “right to work.” Fortunately, wrongful termination lawsuits are almost unheard of. But even in extreme cases, a paper trail outlining non-performance is sufficient to avoid a wrongful termination lawsuit. In the case of a Representative Director of a K.K. (Japanese subsidiary corporation), s/he can be terminated without cause through a shareholder resolution and deleted from the Commercial Registration.